Our overlords seem to be growing frantic these days. In spite of controlling everything from the US Supreme Court to the IPC, their iron-fisted hold seems to be ebbing. BoJo was forced into abdication for knowingly hiring an actual groper — and posting bad jokes on social media about the guy. (As BoJo himself seems like a bad social media joke amply incarnated, this seems a fitting end to his Downing Street tenure.) There are also hints of high-level subpoenas and such like things happening in the January 6th hearings. (Not that much will come of that beyond more posturing from finger-wagging Democrats and the approximately three remaining “moderate Republicans”.) Furthermore, the billionaire class is reputedly suffering nearly perceptible losses from the continuing decline in the stock market. (Never mind that pension funds and other investments for our retired public servants have lost trillions with no corresponding cushioning Delaware slush funds.)
(June also marked an abrupt increase in unemployment insurance filings, despite no commensurate increase in lay-off numbers, proving what I’ve long suspected to be true: Unemployment filings do not accurately count those who are under- or unemployed. They count the number of people who are desperate enough to go through the debasement of filing and have the ability to do so. That is, those who have homes with computers, have time free from child-care and illness to apply to many jobs each week, and have the nearly-employable qualities that will win them three verifiable contacts on those job applications to report to their state’s UI administration in order to qualify for each week’s benefits.)
Meanwhile, with Moscow pivoting its natural gas nozzles towards the East, Germany has announced a plan to again fire up the coal-fueled power plants that they had officially shuttered (but evidently not completely decommissioned) and has scrapped their commitment to meeting emissions reductions even though those targets were inadequate to make any meaningful dent in atmospheric carbon in time to limit what their own studies claim will be certain devastation to the biosphere and to “fragile populations worldwide” — who presumably will not be migrating to the less tenuous environs of Germany… because Germany is also not loosening immigration…
And… then there is the West Virginia v the EPA decision in which the Supreme Court passed its benediction on industrial atrocities ranging from ignoring workplace hazards to committing wholesale ecocide, all in the name of propping up the flagging economy. Because the overlords are apparently concerned… nod, nod, wink, wink… know what I mean?
This EPA Supreme Court decision has crippled the US federal government by denying the constitutionality of regulatory bodies to actually create and implement regulation. This decision will force Congress to pass specific legislation in order to proscribe any wrong-doing or harm. With the filibuster alive and well, Congress can’t even pass legislation that benefits the overlords, never mind anything that might limit their rights to turn every last atom on this planet into toxic capital.
But then… states and local governments are also now similarly free of federal restraint. This, of course, will be no end of bad in many states for a very long time. So bad that I might suggest leaving the worst of them. This not only has the advantage of getting away from the overlords and their fascist AR-toting toadies, but most of the socially worst places in this country are also the worst of the biophysical disasters. This is not unrelated.
For all those who live in relatively tolerable places — and even more so for those who don’t and can’t make a move to greener pastures — there is work to be done. This decision is the impetus we needed because it makes it clear that there is no depending on those “higher up” now. They have failed. Worse than failed. With this decision, the Supreme Court, the politicians who have appointed and approved these judges, and the businesses that have financed all these political monsters have categorically announced to the world that they are in active opposition to our health and well-being. They have all but said that we are on our own. So we might as well turn our backs on the overlords and set about meeting our own needs. It is deliciously ironic that this might, in fact, make the racist fascists rue the day that they ever invented the idea of “states’ rights”.
Unfortunately, extractive industries will have no oversight for a while. During this time it is imperative to not support them. It is time to stop driving, stop traveling, stop buying plastic, stop doing anything that increases the profits of the overlords that are behind this Court decision — as well as all the rest of the destruction and misery in this world. It is time to turn off your screens and roll up your sleeves. It is time to tend, to build, to mend and to create everything that we need. This is an enormous task. But there are millions of hands ready to do it. Maybe even billions. Because while this ruling formally affects only the US, in practicality this decision affects the whole world. Whatever happens to industry in the US, happens globally.
On the other hand, if we manage to reduce fossil fuel use in this country, economic systems worldwide will collapse. I used to think that this would be a bad thing, but I realized recently that this negative coloring of the collapse of destructive economic systems is an idea that has been implanted into my head, probably yours as well, by those few who benefit from this system. The inability to act that this fear of the end engenders preserves the current system. I now believe that we are actively taught that we can’t break things economically. We are persuaded to believe that there is no alternative precisely so that we do not envision, much less create, that alternative. But there is nothing given or necessary about this system. And there is nothing inherently bad about breaking it. In fact, it is not even the easiest one to build and maintain. The only reason it exists is that it is the only system that allows for extractive industry and the overlord class. And they know it… and they are terrified of its growing vulnerability.
Many of you know that my bank account had an encounter with Robinhood Securities. It is a mark of overlord anxieties that this has already been eclipsed. Robinhood, at least, does not even attempt to hide behind a law-abiding and benevolent mask. They’ve named themselves for a thief, after all. But I have been surprised to discover that even my new employer has a remarkably complaisant attitude toward law-breaking when it benefits themselves. I have been working for three weeks now. I have yet to receive a paycheck. I have alerted my superiors to this, gave them every opportunity to respond… and they have not. They now owe me more than Robinhood stole. Furthermore, because I sort of thought it reasonable to expect to be paid for work done, I set about paying off the fees and extra interest that accrued while Robinhood had my money. So now, my bank account is empty again. Because the overlords do not see fit to even give me the wages I have earned. I think this is a mark of how close we are to the collapse of this world order.
This is how desperate the overlords are to keep us from seeing that there are many ways to move resources and labor through the world, many ways to maintain the public household, many ways to meet needs, very few of which require destruction or overlords. Our current system is not the normal that the overlords keep saying we need to get back to. Normal does not create devastation. If it did, we would not be here. Devastation would already have done its thing. No. Normal constitutes all the ways humans have lived more or less in balance with our world for all but an eye-blink of our existence. Normal is sustainable, by mathematical definition. Normal can continue for millennia, meeting needs and facilitating welfare perpetually. That is what normal means. Normal is what we all do when left to our own devices. We create the normal economy. We are that economy. It is time to embrace true normalcy and stop listening to the shrill voices of the overlords telling us how bad things will be when they no longer have dominion over the Earth.
Because we don’t need their preferred economic system. We don’t need their rules and their destructive industries and their lies and thievery. We need health and well being and balance. We need to recreate normal. And I feel like this EPA decision might be the spark needed to set off that explosion of regenerated normalcy.
If that is true then perhaps many are beginning to understand that it is time to build. It is time to join together. It is time to run for local office. It is time to attend regulatory commission meetings. It is time to create neighborhood councils that both advise local officials and that field candidates for those positions. It is time to write letters, draft petitions, perhaps even draw up laws and push them through local governing bodies.
It is time to build our normal economy in the abstract with law and practice, but it is also time to build the practical infrastructure as well. So much is crumbling. If you have money, use it to meet local needs now — especially for food and shelter. We are facing a heating disaster this winter. With fossil fuels costing two to three times more than just last year, how many people are no longer going to be able to pay for heating? My elderly neighbors are terrified. They are already planning on closing the second floor of their home, moving bedroom furniture and other needs downstairs, shutting off the upstairs plumbing, forgoing a dining room, trying to figure out where the granddaughter who lives with them is going to sleep. But how many live in apartments with the only choices being coughing up thousands of dollars more for heating this winter or going cold? If you are not facing this disaster, then help your neighbor who undoubtedly is.
Point being that there is much to do and it is time for those with resources to belly up to the table and do it.
It would have been nice if we’d all put solar panels on our homes, at least for heating. Most didn’t. It would have been great if we’d forced industry to generate electricity with renewable sources. That didn’t happen. Electricity is still overwhelmingly created, maintained and distributed through burning fossil fuels. (Of course, making solar panels and turbines requires fossil-fuel use as well.) It would have been fantastic if we’d not relied on the overlords to create the methods of manufacturing and transport for all our energy needs. All our needs period. But we did not do that.
These last few centuries of abnormality have created the opposite of a physical infrastructure that meets needs. Needs are irrelevant to capitalism, you see. An infrastructure that churns material resources and labor into profits does not meet needs except peripherally. The primacy of profits instead creates a physical infrastructure (as well as its attendant economic order) that minimizes costs and maximizes production. It is necessarily dependent upon the cheapest energy system that can be devised, not the one that will meet the most needs. Yes, it might have been nice if we could have gone just about any other direction back when we still had abundant resources and biophysical stability. But we did not. And now our options for meeting needs through industrial-scale processes are negligible. We don’t have the resources. We don’t have the time. We need to choose from the ways to meet needs remaining to us, which are largely small and local. Yet blessedly free from pestilential overlords.
This they know as well…
Here is another example of their desperation. There are calls to install heat pumps in homes. This might have been possible fifty years ago, though the technology was considerably clunkier back then. But maybe we could have built out the energy infrastructure that would have supplied abundant electricity without using fossil fuels. Maybe. Though even in the 1970s, there were few places that could either abandon grid-scale energy or transition centralized power plants to renewables. Admittedly, this is not entirely the fault of capitalism. In many ways, it’s just not physically feasible. Renewables are both intermittent and geographically variable. For example, you can’t depend exclusively on solar electricity at high latitude in the winter months.
That said, it’s important to note that installing heat pumps now does nothing to change the way we generate the electricity that runs them. It does not change the fossil-fuel dependent infrastructure. In fact, it puts more pressure on the energy grid to deliver the sort of constant flow of affordable current that only fossil fuels can deliver. (We could maybe do it on nuclear… but that doesn’t seem smart… and nuclear power is still heavily fossil-fuel dependent for construction, maintenance and distribution anyway.) Putting in heat pumps will increase the use of fossil fuels — by quite a bit when factoring in all the manufacturing and transport necessary to that project. And that’s if we can afford to manufacture and install all those heat pumps. Or get over all the hurdles related to the fact that a majority of people in this country do not own their homes and can not install any heating infrastructure whatsoever.
Now, I would love a heat pump. In fact, I’m trying to figure out how to install one that runs on solar panels and that can heat a greenhouse. This is not going to happen any time soon, certainly not before winter, mainly because I have to budget quite a lot of money toward heating oil this winter. (That is if I ever get paid…) However, even if I could afford it, it is just not possible to heat my main living space, which is surrounded by mountains and mature trees in Vermont, with solar-powered electricity.
But nor can I rely on the grid to power an electric heat pump for my home. The grid already goes down regularly. Every month, we have periods ranging from hours to days with no electricity. I can’t count on electricity to heat my home, especially given that the sort of events that cause power outages are also the sort of times when heat is most necessary. I can’t rely on the fragile grid to keep the house warm in a nor’easter, for example. It’s hard enough to keep the furnace blower running in stormy weather these days.
This unreliability is only going to get worse, not better. So I can’t plan on putting a heat pump in my house without installing a good deal of redundancy from other types of heat. And there aren’t many other types of heat. We pretty much have… fire… So I’m focused on wood heat right now, looking for an affordable wood stove that creates low emissions through efficient gas cycling and has a good deal of thermal mass so I don’t have to burn very much wood. That too will probably not happen before this winter… even if I get paid…
Now, the point of all this tangent on heating is that our current systems of meeting needs are completely failing us. Large-scale systems controlled from the center are utterly dependent upon profits, which are utterly dependent upon fossil fuels. And then, of course, methods of meeting needs as a by-product of producing profits will necessarily fail when there aren’t profits to be made. Hence there are needs now that are not being met, such as heating our homes, and this will continue to get worse in the future. There are no profit-driven mechanisms that will slow that decline. There are also very few technological mechanisms because our technology is profit-dependent (ergo fossil-fuel dependent) and centralized. And none of this infrastructure was ever designed to meet our needs anyway, even when it functioned optimally. It was designed to wrest profit from this planet. And all the profitable avenues are pretty much closed in a resource depleted, physically damaged, and socially imploding world.
This call to install heat pumps is, I think, a diversionary tactic. The overlords probably know it won’t work, but it’s a plausible market-based technological fix for them to advocate. And any attempts to build out this solution also have the advantage of producing profits for them… probably more profit than heat… Because notice that the solution to the freezing of the hoi polloi is to increase energy and resource use, and therefore cost. They want us to buy heat pumps — a new product that they will be happy to sell to us, along with the necessary increases in electricity use and all the infrastructure build-out that that will entail. They are not advocating low-tech and therefore profitless methods of creating warm homes for everybody. If this was a solution to the problem of increasing heat costs, there are a number of ways to do that without forcing people to spend about as much money on the solution as on the current system. Like, say, using public funding to insulate buildings or to install solar heating panels — which use comparably fewer resources and are extremely easy to make so there is no expensive expertise necessary in their installation. But all this translates into fewer possibilities for wrenching money out of the need for heat. Ergo not pleasing to the overlords.
I think this is revealing in the same ways that the EPA decision and the reluctance to pay my wages are revealing. I think we’re seeing a decided shift — in both the desperation of the overlord class and in the general willingness to tolerate their rapaciousness. I think the cracks are gaping so wide that it is impossible to ignore where that will likely lead. It is impossible for those who benefit to divert attention away from the flaws in the system, and it is impossible to justify salvaging that system that is so obviously harming the rest of us. The holes may even soon be swallowing the hindmost of the overlord class. That is their fear anyway. And that is our hope.
In any case, it is evident that we do no have to submit. In fact, the only thing we must do is survive this mess. And the best way to do that is to jettison the whole thing and build the lives we need.
If we’re feeling generous, we might allow the overlords to join us… though it might be politic for them to stop making us miserable in the meantime… nod, nod, wink, wink… know what I mean?
©Elizabeth Anker 2022